Bacalar Lagoon should be on your travel list when visiting Mexico, especially the Yucatan Peninsula.
Bacalar is an old town with a long history behind, dating back to pre-Columbian and Mayan times.
The name Bacalar comes from the Mayan word b’ak halal, which means “surrounded by reeds”.
This beautiful town was among the first cities in the region conquered by the Spanish Conquistadors when they arrived in the area in the 16th century.
During the 17th century, the town was ransacked by pirates, and this caused the construction of the Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar, a fortress that can be visited today.
Today the area is an important attraction among adventures from all over the world looking to explore and enjoy the beauty of Bacalar Lake.
What is the Bacalar Lagoon Mexico?
Bacalar Lagoon is a 26-mile-long lagoon known as Mexico’s largest freshwater body.
Many centuries ago, there was a big cenote (sinkhole) that formed when the Yucatan’s limestone bedrock collapsed.
Then the hole was filled with cool and clear groundwater resulting in the magical place that it is today.
Most cenotes from Mexico, like Cenote Yokdzonot or Cenote Azul, are singular sinkholes enclosed by land.
But Bacalar Lagoon results from multiple cenotes that collapsed, creating the massive lagoon we can see today.
Many centuries ago, the Mayans used this lagoon to transport goods on the water and connect the area with the rest of Central America.
So, because of this connection, the area’s inhabitants lived a wealthy life.
But during the 17th and 18th centuries, things changed dramatically because of the pirates.
Pirates invaded the area, and difficult times followed for its inhabitants.
Today, Bacalar is one of the most beautiful lagoons in Mexico, attracting more than 100.000 visitors each year.
Where is Bacalar Mexico
The Bacalar Lagoon is located in the Yucatan Peninsula, in southern Mexico, just 30 minutes drive from the Belizean border.
The largest Mexican city near the lagoon is Chetumal, while the closest beach is Mahahual in Costa Maya.
Cancun is 4 hour’s drive, while Tulum is just 2 hours drive away.
Why is Bacalar Lagoon so special?
It is quite hard to describe in words the beauty of this place but I’ll do my best.
The lagoon is also called “Laguna de Siete Colores” or “Lagoon of Seven Colors” because of the impressive color of the water.
You will see here many kinds of blue in the water, from sky blue and light turquoise to dark indigo.
Like every lagoon, Bacalar is a saltwater lake filled with water coming from the ocean with different colors of water depending on sunlight and the depth of the water.
Bacalar and 7 colors lagoon
The lagoon is also called the Lagoon of Seven Colors because of the many colors that the water has.
The color of the water is influenced by the depth of the water, ranging from 10 to 310 feet deep.
So, the shallow parts of the lagoon have clear water, while the deepest points have dark blue water.
Is it safe to visit Bacalar?
Bacalar is, without any doubt, one of the safest areas in Mexico for travelers.
It is a small town where most of the inhabitants work in tourism, so they do their best to please you.
The Yucatan Peninsula has the lowest rates of crimes in Mexico, about ten times lower than the rest of the country.
Tourists can safely use public transport to move around the peninsula during the day.
I strongly recommend staying at the hotel during the night and avoiding desolate roads.
Don’t forget to get travel insurance before leaving home which includes theft protection and other clauses to avoid waisting money if something wrong happens.
Travel anywhere without worries
- trip interruption -up to $5.000
- medical assistance including COVID-19
- travel delay - up to $100/day
- emergency medical evacuation
- medical safety abroad
How to get to Bacalar Mexico
There are multiple ways to get to Bacalar, but I will tell you below everything you need to know about each option.
Flights to Bacalar Mexico
There are two airports where you can fly if you want to explore this beautiful lagoon.
The first airport is Chetumal International Airport (CTM) which is located 45 minutes drive from the lagoon.
This is a small airport, and to get from the airport to the lagoon, you will have to transit to Mexico City.
The second closest airport to the lagoon is located in Belize, more precisely in Belize City, about 4 hour’s drive away.
Tulum and Cancun are quite close to the lagoon, so you can consider renting a car and exploring the lagoon on your beach holiday in Mexico.
Driving around the Yucatan area is quite easy as the roads have clear signposts and decent road conditions.
Have a unique experience by exploring the area in your own rented car
Whether you prefer day trips from your hotel or a tour around the country, car rental is the best way for creating your own experience and live your dream vacation
Here are the distances between the main points in Mexico:
- Tulum to Bacalar- 2.5 hours or 135 miles (216 km)
- Playa del Carmen to Bacalar – 3 hours or 175 miles (280 km)
- Cancun to Bacalar- 4.1 hours or 217 miles ( 347 km)
- Merida to Bacalar – 4.1 hours or 217 miles ( 347 km)
Yucatan Peninsula is known for its great bus connections.
ADO buses are the best, with air-conditioning, comfortable seats, and always on time.
The prices are more than affordable, the only downside is that you have to stick to their scheduler.
Renting a car gives you the freedom and mobility you need to explore this beautiful area, but if you don’t feel comfortable driving, consider taking the bus or shuttle.
Private transfers are available in the Peninsula, including airport pickup and drop off, or transfers from Cancun and Tulum hotels to the lagoon.
The drivers are punctual and reliable, and most of the cars are in good condition.
Cancun to Bacalar Mexico: best transportation options
Although Chetumal airport is the closest airport to Bacalar Lagoon, most tourists prefer to fly to Cancun International Airport (CUN).
They spend a few days on the beach, rent a car or hire a shuttle, and go to the lagoon.
If you rent a car to get to Bacalar, the road trip will last about 4 hours and the road is quite straightforward.
From Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Puerto Morelos, and Riviera Maya, you must take Highway 307/Chetumal-Cancun until you reach Bacalar.
It is the main road in the area and very well maintained.
How to get around Bacalar Lagoon?
The town of Bacalar is quite small and easy to explore on foot.
The lagoon itself is huge and you need to take kayak or boat to explore different parts of it.
Most of the hotels offer kayaks for free, and for those looking to explore the city, there are bikes to rent.
Parking is not an issue in the Bacalar area, and the plus of renting a car is that you can reach even the most remote areas like los Rapidos.
Best time to visit Bacalar
Bacalar Lagoon is a destination that can be visited all year round.
Still, the best time to visit the area is between January and March, when the temperatures are more pleasant, and the crowds are still out.
December is crowded, with tourists roaming everywhere and high accommodation, food, and rental car prices.
On the other hand, August to October is a period that you should avoid if you plan to visit the area, as it is hurricane season.
The rainy season is from June to November, with September and October being the rainiest months.
How much time to visit Bacalar?
The list of things to do in Bacalar is not very long, so I would say three days are enough to explore the area.
You can swim in the lagoon, swing on hammocks and relax, and explore the beautiful town of Bacalar.
What is mandatory to do here is to take a boat trip around the lagoon, on another day go to Los Rapidos, and on the last day, just lay in the sun, swing on a hammock and enjoy the view.
Bacalar is a pueblo magico; more than one day is needed to explore the area.
So, for this reason, I strongly recommend booking two nights of accommodation in the area to explore everything it offers.
One thing that really helps me whenever I plan my next travel is - to stay focused and organised! Check out this gorgeous Vacation Planner printable - with pre-trip to-do lists + accommodation and flight research + activities and car-rental + packing lists (empty and even pre-filled) to make sure you don't forget anything when you travel
(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE: DISCLOSURE POLICY)
Related: Trip research planner (a lighter version of the Vacation Planner)
Bacalar Lagoon hotels
Bacalar is a touristic area, and there are plenty of options when choosing the best Bacalar Lagoon resort or boutique hotel.
Our top picks are:
One of my favorite picks from the area is Hotel Sun-ha, a beautiful hotel with more than a fair price.
The rooms are large, clean, modernly furnished, and have beautiful decor.
You have a nice terrace overlooking the lagoon.
The staff is super friendly and nice and already ready to give you a helping hand in organizing your stay.
The complimentary breakfast is delicious and served on the patio downstairs.
Hotel Rancho Encantado
Rancho Encantado hotel is one of the most beautiful eco-friendly hotels in Bacalar, extremely popular among tourists worldwide.
Its cozy cabanas are hidden inside a lush garden, and the restaurant offers stunning views of the lagoon.
You can jump into the fresh blue water from their private pier and cool off after a delicious breakfast.
This medium-budget property from Bacalar is my favorite place, offering lagoon views without spending much money.
Tropic Bacalar offers stylishly decorated rooms with wooden works and white brick walls.
The outdoor area is simply breathtaking, with hammocks hidden in the lush garden and chairs scattered everywhere.
You can see the blue lagoon from almost every corner of the property.
The staff is friendly and does their best so that you feel at home.
Things to do in Bacalar
1.Take a boat trip around the Bacalar lagoon
The first and most important thing to do in Bacalar is to take a boat trip around the lagoon. The trip usually lasts 3 hours, and the best time to be on the water is midday, so take the 11 am boat.
The speedboat tours usually leave every hour, and you can get tickets from the locals on the street.
The price for a tour is fixed, so you don’t have to bargain with locals.
If you want to explore the lagoon more privately, go for sailing and pontoon tours.
Be careful, as their offer is limited, and during the high season, they sell out quickly, so book well in advance.
The prices for a tour vary, depending on your preferences:
- Speedboat is around 250 pesos ( 13 USD)
- Pontoon with luxury seats start from 350 pesos (18 USD)
- Sailboat with free snacks and open bar starts from 600 pesos (30 USD).
The most important spots to see that are generally included in each tour are:
- Canal de los Piratas
- Cenote Esmeralda
- Cenote Negro
- Cenote Cocalitos
- Isla de los Pajaros
2. Chill at Isla de los Pajaros
Inside the lagoon are several islands, the most popular of which is Isla de los Pajaros or Bird Island.
As the name suggests, the place is perfect for birdwatching at certain times of the year.
The island is home to many endemic birds like parrots and snail hawks.
The best time of the day to spot birds is early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
3. Rent a kayak
If you want to explore the lagoon alone, consider renting a kayak.
From Bacalar town, there are about 25 minutes to paddle to the most important spots on the lagoon.
Don’t forget to pack your snacks and drinks, as you can easily spend the whole day in the kayak exploring the surroundings.
Most hotels from the area offer free kayaks for rent, while others charge you a small fee for them.
On average, renting a kayak is around 5 USD per hour.
4. Swim in Cenote Cocalitos
Cenote Cocalitos is a swimming spot, or Balneario as locals call it, extremely popular and Instagramable.
The color of the water is fantastic, crystal clear, and perfect for swimming, especially for kids.
The place is packed with colorful hammocks and over-water swings, making it perfect for chilling.
5. Visit Fort San Felipe
Located right in the heart of the city, Fort San Felipe was built during the 18th century when pirates attacked the town.
Today the place is home to a piracy museum displaying artifacts and weapons dating from colonial era.
The entrance fee is around 5 USD and the fort is open daily except for Mondays.
6. Visit Cenote Negro
Cenote Negro is another beautiful spot located inside the lagoon.
It is a huge cenote with a depth of 250 feet and it is a stopping point for most boats that go along the lagoon.
Cenote Negro is also called the Cenote de las Brujas or Witch’s Cenote, and the place is completely different to a classical cenote.
It is very deep, and the water is dark blue, so you cannot see much beneath you when you are in the water.
The place is considered too dangerous for a swim, so you can admire it only from the boat.
7. Go zipline at Kan Kin Bacalar
There is no better way to see the beauty of Bacalar area than from the air, so don’t miss the zipline at Kan Kin.
You will fly over the gorgeous lagoon and lush vegetation.
The tirolian has in total of 1500 meters and consists of 5 zip lines, perfect for those of you looking for adventure.
The price for a tour is around 40 USD, and kids above five are welcome.
8. Drift down Los Rapidos
Los Rapidos is located in the southern part of Bacalar Lagoon and is a natural ‘lazy river”.
It is perfect for floating down the rapids and is one of most tourists’ favorite things to do in Bacalar.
It is about 20 minutes’ drive from the town and accessible only by bike or car.
There is a restaurant on-site, and the entrance fee is 5 USD for adults and 2.5 USD for kids.
9. Float in canal de las Piratas
Canal de las Piratas is probably the most important attraction in the area, and you can reach it easily by boat or by kayak after 15 minutes paddle with your rented paddle boarding.
The canal was used by pirates in the 18th century to get to the small town of Bacalar. Today it is an iconic place with shallow waters.
In the middle of the canal, there is an abandoned construction looking like a ship, which supposed to be a restaurant.
Unfortunately, the place was never open to the public.
10. Explore Bacalar town
The Bacalar town is one of the 135 pueblo magico in Mexico, and it is a cozy and quiet town perfect for exploring on a sunny day.
The city is extremely old, dating from pre-columbian times, and was the first city in the region colonized by the Spanish Conquistadors in 1543.
Today the town offers a great picture of old Mexican life.
11. Visit the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins
Chacchoben Mayan Ruins is the closest archeological site from Bacalar, located only 30 minute drive away.
It is extremely old; experts date it to around 1000 BC.
By 360 AD Chacchoben was the center of the region, an important ceremonial center located close to the lake.
Today, the site is open to the public, and a significant part of the site still waits to be restored and revealed to the public.
12. Visit El Manati to learn about Stromatolites
El Manati is one of my favorite spots in the area. It is a museum, a restaurant, and a shop, a great spot to learn more about Stromatolites.
Inside the museum, you will find a lot of photos and exhibitions on Stromatolites, and it is also a good place to learn more about eh living fossils that were found in the lagoon.
On Sundays, there is live music, and you can serve breakfast on their beautiful patio.
13. See the San Joaquin Parish Church
San Joaquin Parish Church is located in the main square of Bacalar and is one of the city’s most important attractions.
The entrance is free of charge and the church has a vaulted ceiling that must be seen when in the area.
Where to eat in Bacalar
Although Bacalar is a small town, there are plenty of options when discussing places to eat.
You will find everything you can wish for here, from foot trucks to gourmet restaurants.
The list is quite long from high-end restaurants serving contemporary Mexican dishes like Jaguara Cocina Mexicana to the gorgeous El Manati.
If you want a waterfront restaurant, book a table at La Playita, and try their shrimp ceviche.
Along Avenue 1, the main street of Bacalar, there are plenty of food trucks where you can find fish tacos, burritos, and other Mexican dishes.
Cost of travel in Bacalar
Bacalar is considerably cheaper than Tulum or Cancun. The prices for food and accommodation are lower, and the price-quality ratio is far better.
If you plan to stay in Bacalar town, the accommodation price for one night is around 50 USD per room and max 10 USD for a meal.
The boat tours start from 15 USD per person, while bike rental is around 13 USD for the whole day.
Tips for visiting Bacalar
Bacalar Lagoon is a spectacular place, so it is our duty and responsibility to keep it as it is so that future generation can enjoy it, too.
So, here are a few things that you can do to help preserve the lagoon:
- Don’t go into the water with suncream on your body as the oils and chemicals from your suncream can lead to the lagoon losing its beautiful colors, by negatively impacting the PH of the water
- Don’t walk, touch or kick the stromatolites. Stromatolites look like blobs but they are not rocks. These rare formations are quite fragile and considered the oldest living organism on the planet.
Is it called Bacalar Lagoon or Bacalar Lake?
Bacalar Lagoon is actually a lake, not a lagoon.
You might find this place under Lake Bacalar in English, but it is the same place as Bacalar Lagoon.
Its name is Laguna Bacalar in Spanish, but in English, both Bacalar Lake and Bacalar Lagoon work fine.
Its nickname, Maldives of Mexico comes from the stunning watercolor, Bacalar’s freshwater.
Does Balcar Lagoon have seven colors?
The area’s original inhabitants, the Mayans, called the Lagoon Laguna de Siete Colores, which means Lagoon of Seven Colors.
On a clear sunny day, you can see all seven colors of the water spread throughout the lake.
Is Bacalar a pueblo magico?
Yes, Bacalar is a pueblo magico or a magic town.
Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism awards this title to the small towns (pueblos).
There are about 135 pueblo magico in Mexico, all with distinct characteristics, including folkloric traditions, unique culture, and stunning natural beauty.
Is Bacalar worth visiting?
Bacalar is extremely beautiful, so you definitely have to pay it a visit when visiting Mexico.
If you want to chill out, enjoy nature, relax, and explore the wild side of Mexico, then this is the place to go.
If night parties and beach clubs are what you are looking for, then don’t bother coming to Bacalar.
What do I pack for Bacalar?
Bacalar has a tropical climate, which means high temperature and high humidity.
Can you swim in Bacalar?
Of course, you can swim in Bacalar, as in many parts of the lagoon; the water is quite shallow.
If you are a more experienced swimmer, you can go to deeper waters, where you see dark blue.
Are there crocodiles in Bacalar lagoon?
Yes, there are crocodiles in Bacalar lagoon, but you can find them only around the mangrove area where you go by boat, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.